Christmas Verses – Luke 2:1-7

Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7.

Luke records the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the command of Caesar Augustus. Notice how God sovereignly adjusts human history, working in the heart of the Roman Emperor to stir his thinking to demand a census so that Mary and Joseph would return to Bethlehem, thereby fulfilling OT prophecy (Micah 5:2). Notice also that Mary is still said to be engaged to Joseph here. Since the engagement period normally lasted a year, it is reasonable to believe that all of these events from the angel’s appearing to Mary to Jesus’ birth took place very quickly (within a year).

Jesus would have been born not in a palace as he deserved, but lowly in a manger, the place where common domestic animals fed. There was no room for the family in the inn, probably due to the influx of people for the census. Just as there was no room for Jesus’ family in the inn, so there would be no room for Jesus in Pharisaic Jewish society, no room for a king in Israel, no room for a suffering Messiah, and no room for his people as strangers in a foreign land today.

Also, contrary to many Sunday School Christmas pageants, the text does not present this account as though Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem and the same night she gives birth. Luke writes, “and it came about while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth…” This gives the sense that they needed to remain in Bethlehem for some time for census purposes, and that while they were residing there, she gave birth during that time.

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Christmas Verses – Numbers 24:17

As the Israelites wandered through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land, Balak of Moab hires Balaam son of Beor to curse the people. However, in his attempts to curse Israel, he ends up blessing them and prophesying about their future. In one passage Balamm predicts:

“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
And a scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth.” Numbers 24:17.

At the time Israel had no land and no king besides God. Yet even in their infancy God had already predetermined that a ruler would come who would destroy Moab as a warrior king. This prophecy looks for that ruler to come from the tribe of Judah within the nation of Israel.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy in that He is the Messiah from the tribe of Judah of the people of Israel. His birth was announced to wise men from the east by a brilliant star shining in the sky, guiding them to the newborn king. One day, when He returns from heaven, He will conquer as a warrior king and set up a kingdom on earth that will have no end.

Christmas Verses – Genesis 49:10

After God led the family of Abraham into Egypt, Jacob acts as a prophet to tell of the coming of the Christ. Jacob’s prophecy to his son Judah contains a veiled foreshadow of the coming Messiah:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Genesis 49:10.

This is the first hint of a Messianic global rule in conjunction with a Messianic coming. The scepter (mace) was a common ancient Near Eastern weapon used by kings from Egypt to Mesopotamia (look up: macehead of Narmer, King Scorpion in Egypt, Naram-Sin in Akkad). Thus Judah would possess rule within the tribes of Israel, “until Shiloh comes.”

The phrase “until Shiloh comes” could be intended as a title, meaning the ruler would be the personification of peace (cf., “Prince of Peace,” Isa. 9:6), or perhaps in reference to the location of the tabernacle at Shiloh, meaning the ruler would have a divine status, similar to the kings of other ancient nations. Thus there may also be a hidden reference to the deity of Messiah in this verse.